MADRID – Spain and Britain have reached an agreement in principle about the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar. Despite Brexit, the British overseas territory on the southern Spanish coast belongs to the Schengen countries.
Late last Thursday, Spanish and British Foreign Ministers negotiated the Gibraltar issue by video conference. Just a few hours before the turn of the year and the onset of Brexit, the agreement in principle was on the table.
Gibraltar part of the Schengen zone
Gibraltar is the only British territory to belong to the 26 Schengen countries, thus removing the border between the colony and Spain. The Schengen Treaty includes free movement of persons in the so-called Schengen zone. This means that Spaniards may now travel to Gibraltar without a passport. However, the British still require to have a valid travel document with them.
Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, will carry out border controls at the port and airport of Gibraltar. However, Spain remains responsible for compliance with Schengen rules in Gibraltar. The Spanish authorities have the final say on whether or not to grant a short-term visa (90 days).
Negotiations on the border between Spain and Gibraltar started in June of last year. However, the agreement in principle reached last Thursday, is only now on its way to the European Commission. The United Kingdom and the EU must now draw up a treaty.
Without an agreement, the economic consequences for Spain were major
With the agreement, nearly 10,000 Spaniards working in Gibraltar can continue to enter and leave the British colony without problem. However, had an agreement not been made, many of the jobs in Gibraltar for Spanish workers would have been lost. In addition, many southern Spanish cities could also have suffered the economic consequences. Mayors of Algeciras, La Línea, San Roque, Jimena, Tarifa, Los Barrios, Castellar, and San Martín del Tesorillo warned against this.
No end to the struggle for sovereignty
The Spanish minister said the successful negotiations on the border crossing will not affect the bilateral struggle for the sovereignty of the British colony and the airport on it.
An Anglo-Dutch force conquered the seven square kilometre island of Gibraltar from Spain in the early eighteenth century. At the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, it was officially assigned to the United Kingdom. Since then, the island’s sovereignty has been a point of contention in the relationship between Britain and Spain.